Let’s Talk Turkey: How to Prep for Your First Turkey Hunt

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Much like bowhunting, you’ll enjoy turkey hunting once you try it. Taking the plunge can be the hardest part because it often sounds so difficult. To make things easier, we talked to a novice hunter and an experienced turkey hunter to learn how beginners can best prepare for their first outing.

Meet the Experts

Pictured above is Matt Lindler, acting vice president of communications at the National Wild Turkey Federation, who has hunted for over 20 years and likes turkeys because of the challenges out in the field that they present. Photo Credit: huntforever.org

Matt Lindler, acting vice president of communications at the National Wild Turkey Federation, has hunted over 20 years. He likes hunting turkeys because they present challenges he doesn’t encounter with most game species. He said turkey hunting’s many close calls, blown chances and occasional successes keep him coming back for more.

His coworker, Susan Delk, an NWTF writer and photographer, began hunting last spring, and shot her first turkey in Texas. She grew up on a farm where her family sourced their meat and grew their vegetables. Later, after years of buying meat at grocery stores, she longed for stronger connections to her food and turned to hunting. “I was hooked from the first gobble,” she said.

Below are five tips to help you prepare for an enjoyable turkey season.

1. Practice Using Your Turkey Calls

Hunters can use box calls, slate calls or mouth calls to lure turkeys into shooting range. Photo Credit: John Hafner

Delk said turkey hunting’s biggest challenge is learning to imitate the sounds hens make. Because wild turkeys make so many different sounds, she recommends learning one call to start, and then expanding your calling skills from there.

Hunters can use box calls, slate calls or mouth calls to lure turkeys into shooting range. Lindler said box calls are easy to use for yelping, cutting and gobbling, but slate or mouth calls work better for quiet clucks and purrs.

Read articles or watch instructional videos to learn how to use turkey calls. Then listen to recordings of real turkeys to perfect your sound.

2. Shoot and Pattern Your Gun

Sighting in your gun for turkey season is important. Head to the range and test different shot shells and choke tubes to find a combination that patterns consistently. Take shots at 20, 30 and 40 yards to learn your gun’s limitations. Lindler said 80 percent of your pattern should strike inside a 10-inch circle to ensure fatal shots.

This video by the National Shooting Sports Foundation to learn how to properly and safely pattern your turkey shotgun.

If you’re more comfortable shooting a bow and arrow, go for it! Bowhunting for turkeys is lots of fun. Read Turkey Hunting 101: A Bowhunter’s Guide to Chasing Gobblers for more information.

3. Set Yourself Up for Success

Lindler mentions, “There’s nothing like being in the open and using your woodsmanship skills to outwit a tom’s senses.” Photo Credit: John Hafner

Whether you’re hunting public or private land, good setups are crucial to getting gobblers. Scout for areas turkeys often use. Look for tracks, droppings and strutting zones, i.e., areas where gobblers like to strut. Let the location and situation determine which hunting strategy you’ll use.

Many people use a ground blind to conceal themselves and their movements from the turkey’s keen eyesight. Others prefer a more mobile strategy called “running and gunning.”

Lindler is a seasoned run-and-gun hunter. “There’s nothing like being in the open and using your woodsmanship skills to outwit a tom’s senses,” he said. “Plus, you’re immersed in the outdoors, which makes the experience so much better.” He suggests finding or creating a natural blind from brush and fallen limbs to disguise your movements.

4. Learn from Reputable Resources

Having a trusted mentor can help you learn turkey hunting’s process and its most reliable tactics. Photo Credit: John Hafner

Over his many years of hunting, Lindler recognizes many bad, unsafe practices taught by “folks on YouTube.” Don’t risk injury or worse by listening to unreliable sources. Learn how to hunt wild turkeys from an experienced mentor or reputable resources at Bowhunting 360 and NWTF.org.

Delk said a trusted mentor can help you learn turkey hunting’s process and its most reliable tactics.

Lindler agreed. “Find an old-timer, and beg him or her to take you turkey hunting,” he said. “Absorb all you can from this person.”

5. Stay Patient, Stay Positive

“Give thanks when you fail and when you succeed. It will make your hunts much more memorable, and you’ll sleep at night knowing you did it right.” Photo Credit: John Hafner

Patience and positivity are your biggest assets in the turkey woods. If you stick with it, your hard work will eventually pay off.

“Hunting isn’t all about killing,” Lindler said. “It’s also about preserving your personal integrity and growing as a hunter. Respect the animal as God’s creature and treat it as such. Give thanks when you fail and when you succeed. It will make your hunts much more memorable, and you’ll sleep at night knowing you did it right.”

Accept the Challenge

Turkey hunting isn’t difficult. It’s challenging. That’s what makes it exciting. Turkeys have incredible senses. Plus, they’re wary and smart. Lindler said no other species helps you hone your woodsmanship skills and makes you a better hunter than wild turkeys.

What are you waiting for? Do you have what it takes to bag a bird?

Visit your local archery shop for turkey hunting gear and more!


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